Dr T.E. Forster:

That's what I really look like. Here is the portrait of me that I keep in the attic.
Chores Ancestry Affiliations Movements Visitors Seminars Teaching A Ph.D., perhaps? Publications NF Materials


Office: Room 3, Ground floor, Pavilion C;
`phone in department (01223)-337981;
mobile in UK +44-7887-701-562;
mobile in NZ +64-210580093.
Email: tf@dpmms.cam.ac.uk
Here is my electronic diary. (If you want to book an appointment you will need to contact me for the password.)
For Google's benefit I record here that my name is often misspelled `Thomas Foster' and `Thomas Forester'
Click here for Poem of the Week.
Click here for Bon Mot of the Week.
Affiliations:
I am a Life Associate of Clare Hall, Cambridge, (where I am also Director of Studies in Mathematics and Computer Science) and an affiliated lecturer in the department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics here in Cambridge. I am also Director of Studies in Pure Mathematics at St. Edmunds,. Outside Cambridge my affiliations are: Adjunct Senior Fellow in the Philosophy department at the University of Canterbury at Christchurch; Visiting Lecturer at Queen Mary Westfield ; External Researcher of the Auckland Centre for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science in New Zealand, and a Fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. When I was in residence there I stayed - as many fellows do - in Carl Hempel's flat. The Pittsburgh Center [sic] also has conferences. (Pittsburgh has many attractions beyond its six (!) universities: serious weather, a wonderful orchestra, opera houses, rivers, cable cars, the best chips in America (at the Original Hot Dog. Be sure to ask for a small portion), steel mills, lots of history (much of it sad), and, last but not least, an airport called - wait for it - ``Tom Foerster International Airport''! (The correct explanation for this spelling mistake is surely the one found by Sten Vikner who pointed out that they must have misplaced my middle initial.)
Chores:

I organised the 70th anniversary NF meeting (``NFUK'') in Cambridge at the end of May 2007.
I am on the Comité de Redaction of the Belgian Centre National de Recherches de Logique;
I am a ``correspondent étranger" of Logique et Analyse and an associate editor of The Human Nature review. I was the Cambridge horn (in fact the Principal Researcher(!)) of the (currently slumbering) three-horned beast that is Cameleon.
I was Conference Director for the (now dormant) St Luke's Institute, in which capacity I organised BILAP (Buddhism in Logic and Analytic Philosophy) which held its inaugural meeting in Cambridge in November 2005, and the Logic and Rhetoric conference held in Cambridge on the last weekend of October 2006.
I am on the DPMMS Quiz team which mercilessly crushed all opposition to be the winners in the 800th anniversary Quiz context. At the 800th anniversary garden party we went on to murder a team of alumni. (That link is not for the squeamish).
Movements:

I am back in Cambridge in early january and expect to be there until the end of june 2014.
Research:

I work on Set Theory, Type Theory, BQO theory, Philosophy of Mathematics and Philosophy of Mind. I developed this last interest when I was a music+philosophy student and it led me into Neurophysiology (yes, that is me in the picture, but no logicians were harmed in the execution of this experiment) : until relatively recently I was a paid-up member of the Electro-Physiological Technologists Association. I had to give up my part-time post at Addenbrooke's doing EEGs to take up my Pittsburgh Fellowship. The combination of an interest in Philosophy of Mind and a training in logic has given me an abiding interest in the logic of virtual (theoretical) entities. (Having the part of the Cheshire Cat in the school production of Alice about the time the above photograph was taken probably played a part too). Indeed when the Logic and Philosophy of Science department at the University of California at Irvine were so kind as to invite me to spend three months with them I took the opportunity to write a book about it, called Reasoning about Theoretical Entities. Not surprisingly, given my exposure to the Life Sciences and my interest in reasoning about theoretical entities, I have an interest in Philosophy of Biology. Perhaps I'll get round to giving a course on it one day. Most of my publications concern Quine's set theory NF, for which an introduction for a general audience can be found here (it was a 60th anniversary retrospective article for the American Mathematical Monthly).
Visitors
I am hoping to have Randall Holmes over in the spring.
In 2003-4 I had Olivier Esser here in Cambridge as my post-doc, working on NF. Thierry Libert was here two years ago, and again briefly last year, continuing his project to teach me some positive set theory (GPC etc: this isn't Set-Theory-by-Compte, despite the adjective and the French Connection). I have recently had two visits from Edoardo Rivello, who wants to learn about symmetric models for stratified fragments of ZF.
Teaching
Cambridge teaching materials (for my Cambridge students and readable only from .cam.ac.uk addresses);

If you want to book a supervision with me you will want to consult my electronic diary .(You will need to contact me for the password)

You might find my essay on Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind a useful resource.
If you are a Cambridge physiology student thinking of doing my Part II project have a look at the proposal. I don't think I can support it now (I am no longer at Addenbrooke's) but I think the department there would still be interested.
A Ph.D., perhaps?
The world of NF studies is being turned upside-down by the rumours that NF has been proved consistent. Come and join the fun! NF students in Cambridge are a small but select bunch. Curiously (like their supervisor) they are all vegetarians, but meat-eaters need not feel that they will be unwelcome, as long as they keep their disgusting habits to themselves. No but seriously. At the moment there are two: Zachiri McKenzie has just completed, David Matthai is now in his third year, and Philipp Kleppmann is in his second. They are enrolled in Cambridge, but it is by no means out of the question that I will be in a position to supervise students on a campus in New Zealand. In addition to the obvious delights we all know about (hobbits behind every sofa etc etc) there is also the point that NZ fees for Ph.D. students are a lot lower than Cambridge fees!

For while i was trying to interest people in the constructions discussed in my AMS Baltimore meeting article. Dang Vu wrote a Ph.D.thesis on this subject which he has kindly allowed me to link from here.. My hope was that these constructions would lead to a proof of Con(NF). Even if it is true that they have been pipped at the post, the methods used in this paper are related to those used in the alleged proof, and it could be a good place to start reading.

I am interested in taking on some more Ph.D. students to work on NF and to this end I provide a list of suitable thesis topics. Actually not all the topics in there are NF topics... there are some topics in philosophy of mathematics that i'd be happy to supervise too.
There is a plan to get some money together for a Ph.D. studentship to do a formal verification of Holmes' proof of Con(NF). It's only at the design stage yet, but if you are suitably qualified it would no harm to tell me about yourself.


Seminars
I organise those Cameleon meetings that take place in Cambridge. I organise the Set Theory seminar in DPMMS. I belong to the theory group at the Computer Laboratory.
Ancestry
My mother came from Basel, the city that produced Leonhard Euler and Holbein and has been home to the Bernoulli family since they were expelled by the Reyes Catolicos (isn't that enough for a small town???). We know about the mathematicians of course, (and even the tennis players: Roger Federer is a Basler) but it has also produced some wonderful painters - and not just Holbein. Sadly the creator of this little gem in the Eulerstrasse (yes, it's the same Euler) did not sign his work and his (her?) identity was not recorded for posterity. I tell everyone I am a fourth-generation academic, and this is because of her (my mother's) grandfather who was a fairly well-known chemist (he discovered the rearrangement of allyl thiocyanate to allyl isothiocyanate) from whom i inherited through her not only some genes for doing chemistry but also a dressing-gown. The only other ancestor I know of who is sufficiently well-known to have his own wikipædia entry is John Freke, but I get only about 0.4% of my genes from him - which is a pity, 'cos he was an FRS!

But in any case it's intellectual ancestry one worries about. I had two DoktorVater: Adrian Mathias in Cambridge, and Maurice Boffa in Brussels. Sadly, Boffa died in 2001: it is a terrible loss. Here are two group pictures, with three of his Ph.D. students. My other DoktorVater, Adrian Mathias, is still very much alive - for the moment at least: he does live uncomfortably near an active volcano!) According to the Mathematics Genealogy Project I am descended (thru' Mathias) from Fichte, Hegel, Kant and Leibniz!! Thru' Boffa I am descended from Poincaré!!

Like Everyone Who Is Anyone in Silicon Fen I worked (briefly) for Clive Sinclair, in my case in the Sinclair Radionics days. (He was a neighbour of my parents). My Erdös number is 3: Forster-Truss-Shelah-Erdös ; (and Erdös many years ago described me as ``a very strange young man''!). But there are other metrics. My Trotsky number is 3 (I shared an office with a colleague (Giovanna Corsi) who shared an office with a colleague (Jean van Heijenoort) who was Trotsky's bodyguard); my Beethoven number is 4, since I have shaken hands with a man who shook hands with a man who shook hands with Grillparzer, who shook hands with Beethoven, Liszt...well - everyone! I once played Garcia Lorca's piano. I used to play chess with a woman who had been Tolstoy's next-door neighbour, and had been taught by Alekhine . When an infant she had been dandled on Tchaikovsky's knee. If you are a Canadian you may be impressed by the fact that I once had my portrait painted by Barker Fairley (he's the one with the pipe in this group picture of the group of seven); apparently I am the only person other than Wittgenstein to have given a course of lectures in Cambridge gazetted under the title `Philosophy'; my Ph.D. Thesis title "N.F." is the shortest on record; as far as I know I am the only person to have a Cambridge Ph.D. in mathematics without having done any undergraduate mathematics; finally I must surely be the only Logic Ph.D. anywhere in the world who is also licenced to drive an EEG machine. My remaining distinguishing features are of less interest. Born in the oldest house in Cambridge? And a haunted one at that? (It's the Abbey House. It had been a gift from Lord Fairhaven to the Cambridge City Council who then divided it into flats and let them out - so should I ever want to go into politics I can always say I was born in council house! and I was delivered by Alice Roughton). The only person to have been at school with both the erstwhile Home Secretary (Charles Clarke) and the Queen's (erstwhile) private secretary (Robin Janvrin)? (Not to mention the - sadly - thoroughly unmemorable Nick Drake who was in my Russian class at Marlborough). The tabloids are not beating a path to my door. I do not - yet - have a theorem named after me, (nor even an airport, see above) tho' there is a lifeform bearing my name: not a child - sadly- but a midge called Telnatogeton Forsteri. This lives only in New Zealand - there is a type specimen in my desk drawer in Cambridge but it's definitely dead. This lifeform was discovered by my friend John Leader. If you wish to name an invertebrate or a theorem - or even an airport - after me, feel free.


NF Materials:

I make available here the source code of my Commonplace book on NF.
Cartesian-closedness fails in NF
is too short to be publishable but may be a useful resource for NF scholars.
As part of the project to make historical NF literature freely available I am posting here my Ph.D. Thesis .



Publications:
I keep unbelievably exalted company....

A fairly complete bibliography of my published writings can be found here.
My lectures for the Part II logic course have now come out as Logic, Induction and Sets. A list of errata for this book is to be found here.
Those works which the publishers have allowed me to make available have links on this page.
There are three translations available:
My annotated translation of Coret's seminal article Les cas stratifiées du schema de remplacement and my annotated translation of Roland Hinnion's Ph.D. thesis are both here .
Dualität is an annotated and illustrated translation of Specker's seminal paper on duality in projective geometry, which I prepared in collaboration with Anne the widow of Harold Davenport. I prepared it for the Garland Quinefest volumes, where it finds a natural place because of the development of those ideas of duality into ideas of typical ambiguity in Type theory and NF. I have removed from this copy a typo that mars the Garland version. Chad Brown reckons there is a mistake in the original. Click here for his analysis.
Permutation Models and Stratified Formulæ, a Preservation Theorem appeared in the ZML vol 36 (1990) pp 385–388.
Asenjo's system LP does not support modus ponens has been much expanded by Jc Beall into a version which has been accepted by the NDJFL and which includes a striking strengthening of my result by Jeremy Seligman. The version posted here is essentially my original text.
A semantic characterisation of the well-typed formulae of lambda calculus is from Theoretical Computer Science.
Asynchronous games explores a way of representing asynchonous games (Homicidal Chauffeur etc.) as alternating discrete (``clocked'') games. I would be interested in feedback. It has now appeared in the procedings of the Liverpool july 2004 meeting on knowledge and games, but the version here will always be the more up-to-date one.
The editors are allowing me to post here my introduction to the Buddhism in Logic and Analytical Philosophy volume (``Pointing at the moon'') published by Oxford University Press.
Relaxing Stratification is an answer to the top FAQ about NF: ``Can the stratification constraint be safely relaxed?''. Beginners might find this paper discouragingly thorough! It is a survey, joint work by me and Olivier Esser.
Paris-Harrington in an NF context exhibits a formulation of Paris-Harrington and one of Finite Ramsey that differ only in their quantifier prefix. It also discusses the implications of the fact that - on the face of it - the statement of the Paris-Harrington theorem is not stratified/welltyped in the Russell-Quine sense. It has appeared in volume 17 of the Cahiers du Centre de Logique.
Rhetorical devices in Analytic Philosophy is my contribution to the special number of Logique et Analyse which contains the proceedings of the Logic and Rhetoric conference held in Cambridge on the last weekend of October 2006.
My talk at the LMS Sets-and-games meeting:
Games played on an illfounded membership relation has now appeared in the Boffa 60th birthday festschrift.
Finite-to-one maps has now appeared in the JSL. It shows, without any use of AC, that if there is a finite-to-one surjection from the power set of X to X then X is genuinely finite (its cardinal is a natural number). I proved it years ago and tho'rt nothing of it but Adrian Mathias and James Cummings couldn't prove it when I challenged them so I tho'rt it might be worth publishing and the JSL agreed, bless `em. Greg Kirmayer claims that he can improve this result, and i'm inclined to believe him.
Yablo's paradox without self-reference is in Logique et Analyse vol 185-8 (2004) pp 461-2; Yablo's paradox and the omitting types theorem for propositional logic has just been accepted by Logique et Analyse. The version linked here (unlike the published version) contains a proof of the extended omitting types theorem for propositional logic. I cannot find a proof in the literature, and there should be one!

Deterministic and Nondeterministic Strategies for Hintikka games in First-order and Branching-quantifier logic is in Logique et Analyse vol 195 pp 265-69.
Implementing Mathematical objects in Set Theory is in the special number of Logique et Analyse devoted to Foundations of Set Theory, to wit vol 50 No.197 (2007).
AC fails in the natural analogues of V and L that model the stratified fragment of ZF is a version (cleaned of typos and minor infelicities) of the paper I gave at the Baltimore joint meeting AMS/MAA in 2003. It is a work of breathtaking fertility: read it and weep. Better still, read it and use the techniques in it to prove Con(NF).
ZF + Every set is the same size as a wellfounded set is in the March 2003 fascicule of the JSL;
BQOs and coinduction is in the dec. 2003 fascicule of Theoretical Computer Science;

The Modal Aether (wherein the egregious and vexatious errors of the possible world semanticists are expos'd, ridicul'd and confuted) is in a collection called `Intentionality' edited by Reinhardt Kahle and published by Springer. That was in .ps format; here it is in pdf format but without the drawings.
Weak Set Theories related to HOL is an improved version of my HUG 1994 paper from LNCS 859;
Why Set theory without the axiom of foundation? appeared in the Journal of Logic and Computation in 1994;
Sethood and Situations (jointly written with Cathy Rood Wyss) has appeared in Computational Linguistics vol 22, (1996) pp 405-408.
Permutations and Wellfoundedness: the true meaning of the Bizarre Arithmetic of Quine's NF is in the JSL vol 71 march 2006 pp 227-240.
Church's Set Theory with a Universal Set is a revision and expansion of the last chapter of my book on set theory with a universal set, and supercedes it. It was written for the Alonzo Church festschrift. It is intended to be a comprehensive introduction to the method developed by Church and Oswald to construct models of theories like Church's. (The version here is to be preferred to the version in print, as I remove typos and mathematical errors from it as they come to my notice.) A more philosophical treatment of the same ideas is to be found in The Iterative Conception of Set. Everyone who is anyone has written an article under that title; what is distinctive about my contribution under this title is that it was voted one of the ten best philosophy articles of 2008 by the Philosophers' Annual.
Sharvy's Lucy and Benjamin Puzzle is included here with the permission of Springer, since I gave them the copyright so it could appear in Studia Logica, vol 90 (2008) pp 249--256.

The Axiom of Choice and inference to the Best Explanation has recently appeared in Logique et Analyse. While it does not deny the Axiom of Choice (I have no wish to be burnt at the stake, after all) it does point out that quite a lot of the case for believing it is spurious.

The organisers of the Riga conference on paradoxes have allowed me to post here this brief Note on Paradoxes in Ethics which will appear in their proceedings.

Erdos-Rado without Choice has appeared in the Journal of Symbolic Logic, vol 72, 2007, pp. 897-900. The version linked here contains some informative comments by a referee which readers will find very helpful; I am grateful to him/her for permission to include them here.
Mathematical entities arising from equivalence relations, and their implementation in Quine's NF is my invited talk at the Munich workshop organised by Roy Cook and Erich Reck, and is due to appear in Philosophia Mathematica.

Three extended reviews are here:
(i) My Computer Journal review of Barwise and Moss's Vicious Circles. Readers of that review - and others with an antiquarian interest in the early literature on funny set theories - may want to see my 1982 paper on
Strong Extensionality;
(ii) my Studia Logica review of Ziegler-Booth's edition of the collected set-theoretic writings of Paul Finsler, and
(iii) my Physis review of From Dedekind to Gödel.

Here are the notes for my contribution to the panel discussion organised by the Trinity Mathematical Society on 21/x/2013 with Imre Leader on Does mathematics need a philosophy? and here are my notes for my talk to the TMS in october 2012.
Jamie Gabbay recorded this talk i gave at Heriot-Watt.

Leisure:
In my pathetically few hours of leisure I try to keep my knitting going, and strive to keep up my interest in Astronomy and Politics ....and, of course, neurology (this .gif file is called Louise's Brain): [a wee exercise for the reader: join up the top-and-bottom, and join up the sides, and email me to tell me which surface Louise's brain is drawn on]

DPMMS front page.